Gideon is one of the most spoken-about men in the Old Testament for a reason. He was an awesome man. God used him to bring about deliverance from Israel’s enemies on a grand scale, and He gave them peace afterwords for forty years. Fantastic story, incredible man. But there is more to the story.
He had seventy-one sons, seventy were the children of his wives that grew up with him in his household and in their community. One son, Abimelech was from his concubine, a woman who was a servant in a neighboring town.
When Gideon died, Abimelech went to the elders of his city and said “My father is dead. Do you want seventy men to rule over you from another city, or just one who is your own relative?” They said, “We want only one.” So they gave him money, he hired mercenaries to kill his seventy brothers, and he became king.
Gideon, after a great victory, refused to be king. He said, “I will not rule over you, but God will rule over you.” Abimelech not only was made king where his father had refused, but he wiped out his fathers legacy by murdering his brothers. His rule was short. He ended up being ambushed by his own people, then burning all the leaders of his hometown who had originally financed his coup to the crown, and was killed shortly thereafter by a woman who crushed his skull with a rock.
Crazy story, right? I just found it myself last month while up camping. I’ve heard and read of Gideon many times, but never saw the back story and how the choices he had made destroyed everything he had built.
What we do at ManAlive works because of the time we spend in small groups. If a man comes in the room with a problem, that problem at it’s core is almost always a relational problem. Ironically, it is only repaired through the building of healthy relationships. As we are learning to do those relationships in our small group by picking up some tools, learning how to talk, touch, and feel, we’re surrounded by successes and failures. We are encouraged by the former, we learn from the later. Gideon is a biblical view of both. On one hand, we are all encouraged by his life, what he did, and the revealed character of God. On the other, there is lesson in the story that will protect us if we allow ourselves to learn from it.
Gideon did great things, but he had a compromise in his life that came back to bite him. Was it that big of a deal? I mean, concubines were a common practice back then, right? Even the great kings of Israel had them. They were kind of like a wife, but not really. Lower status at best, they were kept women used for sexual purposes. Their children did not enjoy full inheritance rights along with their siblings of the wife or wives.
Maybe Gideon couldn’t or wouldn’t marry her because she was of lower economic status as a servant. Even if she was his wife, which she wasn’t, she lived in the next town over and she raised Gideon’s son Abimelech there, separate from a father and the community of his influence. Out of this scenario, because Gideon couldn’t control his penis, because he compromised in this area, because he didn’t embrace the mistake and raise his son in his own household, it reeked havoc on all that was dear to him after his death when he wasn’t available to protect it.
I know that lesson here is obvious, but I’ll say it anyway. No matter how many great things you have done, it can be wiped out in an instant by compromise. By the lack of self control, by the removal of relationship, lack of fathering, lack of correct parenting and marriage modeling as is should be done.
In the next chapter of Judges, the narrative moves on to Samson. An angel appears to a barren woman and tells her she is about to have a child that will do great things and that he should be kept holy from birth under a Nazarite vow. The husband wanted to double-check the instructions, so he prays that the angel will return. He does and tells him exactly the same thing, that he is to keep the child holy from birth. The father wants more direction and asks what shall be his mode of life and the vocation of the child. The angel says again that he shall be kept holy, without adding any instructions but the reminder to be holy.
The answer to the questions of life is holiness. If you are ever wondering about God’s direction for you, it’s clear what is important: be holy. In heaven, the elders see God and go back down to their faces, repeating the words “Holy, holy, holy.” He is holy, we are to be holy. Had Gideon stayed holy, his family line and legacy would have remained fully intact. That he messed up doesn’t remove what God did, but it could have ended so much better.
Our mandate is to be holy as He is holy, with every action, with every plan. Like the father of Samson, don’t get weighed down by the details of mode of life or vocation. When we live holy, it’s all good, all the time. In our past, in the moment, in the future, and in the legacy we leave.